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Characters

Laertes

Character Analysis

Laertes, a young Danish lord, is the son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia. He spends most of his time off at college, but, like a lot of college students, he manages to pack a lot of action into the few times he's home.

Foil to Hamlet

After Hamlet kills Polonius, Laertes faces the same problem that Hamlet does —a murdered father. And that's where the similarities end. While Hamlet lollygags and broods over the murder for much of the play, Laertes takes immediate action. He storms home from France as soon as he hears the news, raises a crowd of followers, and invades the palace, saying "That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard." in other words, not being upset by his father's death would prove that his mother was stepping out on his dad.

It's only after he storms the castle with a band of armed men that he starts asking questions —unlike Hamlet, who asks a whole lot of questions before he finally gets around to avenging his father's death. Here's the funny thing, though: both of them end up dead, in exactly the same way, and at each other's hands. So, is Laertes's method really any better than Hamlet's?

Big Brother: A little more than kin?

Laertes obviously loves his dad. And he loves his little sis, too—maybe even a little too much. He makes a huge deal about Ophelia's "unpolluted flesh" at her funeral, just before he screams at the priest to rot in hell and leaps into Ophelia's grave while shouting "Hold off the earth a while, / Till I have caught her once more in mine arms" (5.1.5). This, of course, happens just before Laertes fights with his dead sister's ex-boyfriend about who loved Ophelia the most.

Yep, we're thinking that there's a little "more than kin" at work here. And that's not too surprising, in a play that revolves around a young man who's consumed with his mother's sexuality and marriage to her brother-in-law. And in the end, Laertes's obsession with his family ends up killing him—just as it kills Hamlet. Is Shakespeare advising us all to chill out a little with the tribal allegiances? Or is death just a part of loving your family?

Laertes Timeline
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